House Republicans had thought Monday the conference was on track for a budget deal
House conservatives were the sticking point pressing for a broader deficit reduction
The House budget committee is putting its budget markup on hold as conservatives and moderates in the Republican conference are divided over how the budget would reduce mandatory spending.
The struggle again to bridge the familiar splits inside the House GOP conference comes on the vehicle that top Republican leaders plan to use to push through one of their highest policy priorities – tax reform. And the divisions in the House mirror the challenge Senate leaders are wrestling with on the party’s other big agenda item, repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.
A budget framework had emerged Monday in the House to set defense and domestic spending levels for the next fiscal year, as well as agree to $200 billion in cuts to mandatory spending programs, an increase from $150 billion in mandatory spending reductions that was initially being considered.
But that number has failed to satisfy either wing of the Republican conference, and plans to mark up the budget this week have been shelved.
“We’ve still got a few little pieces there we want to make sure we’ve still got all our members on board, and we’re continuing to work to get that to happen,” House budget chairwoman Diane Black told reporters Tuesday. “I’m not going to talk about those numbers right now again because they’re being negotiated.”
Black said she was confident a House budget would eventually be passed out of committee, saying she was working to finalize a deal that had support of both the panel members and the broader Republican conference.
She insisted there was a viable path to getting 218 members on board.
One senior House GOP leadership aide insisted that the conference was still on track to pull together the budget but said conservatives were the sticking point, pressing for a broader deficit reduction number than some committee chairs were comfortable signing onto.
The $200 billion cut to mandatory spending was an attempt to thread the needle between conservatives who wanted more deficit reduction for mandatory spending and moderates concerned about cutting too deeply into the safety net, but now it appears neither side is happy.
“There was never an agreement on the $200 billion,” said North Carolina Rep. Mark Meadows, the leader of the conservative House Freedom Caucus. “That number was thrown out as an offer, it was never agreed to, and so it’s still a work in progress what we can do on the mandatory spending reductions.”
Centrist GOP Rep. Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania told reporters that setting $150 billion as a goal in deficit savings was aggressive but attempting to go beyond that number hurt the chances for the party to get tax reform done.